Video Shows Passenger Plane Showering Sparks and Losing Debris After Take Off

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

A United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing at Newark-Liberty International Airport after what appeared to be sparks and debris were seen coming off the plane. The Boeing 777-200 made repeated circles for 90 minutes over the Atlantic Ocean before turning around and landing at 1 a.m. The FAA has now opened a probe into the incident, which was caught on video. Here's what happened.

Tricky Take Off

NBC4 New York

The Boeing 777-200 was heading for Sao Paulo, Brazil, when the botched take off happened. Gate agent Murtalla Mbacke captured the entire incident on his phone and says he couldn't believe what he was seeing.  "I was actually yelling because I was excited and also shocked, like is this really happening?" Mbacke told NBC New York. Keep reading to learn more and see the video.

What Happened?

NBC4 New York

According to United, the flight was forced to land due to mechanical failure. The sparks were probably caused by a faulty hydraulic pump, which was seen falling from the sky after take off. "It almost seemed like paper that was falling, it was that slow," Mbacke says. The plane was forced to circle for 90 minutes to burn fuel over the ocean to lose weight and ensure a safe landing.

Everyone Was Safe

NBC4 New York

"That plane was very heavy, so I knew he couldn't come back and land because it would be an overweight landing," says Mbacke. Mbacke also took a picture of what looked like a piece of debris that had come off the plane. United has confirmed the plane, which contained 256 passengers, landed safely and a replacement flight departed for Sao Paulo on Thursday morning.

United Makes a Statement

side of united airlines plane
EQRoy / Shutterstock

"After our aircraft experienced a mechanical issue shortly after takeoff, it remained in the air to burn fuel and then landed safely," United said in a statement. "Passengers deplaned at the gate and a new aircraft is scheduled to depart this morning."

This is Not the First Time

United Airlines Boeing 777

This is not the first time a United Boeing 777 has experienced issues: A United Boeing 777 en route to Honolulu suffered an uncontained engine failure and scattered debris all over a Colorado neighborhood after departing from Denver in February 2021.

The FAA Will Investigate


The FAA released its own statement on the incident, saying it will investigate the cause of the faulty take off. "United Airlines Flight 149, a Boeing 777-200, landed safely at Newark Liberty International Airport shortly before 1 a.m. local time today after the crew reported an emergency. The flight departed Newark and was headed to São Paulo, Brazil before it returned. The FAA will investigate."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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